Living with the Truth Stranger than Fiction This Is Not About What You Think Milligan and Murphy Making Sense

Monday, 20 August 2007

Good reads

I’ve joined a new site by the name of Goodreads whose purpose is to provide a home for a pile of book reviewers to store and share information. (Note to self: there must be a better collective noun for book reviewers. Maybe ‘column’? A column of book reviewers).

The chore, which is where I am at the moment is entering all the books, or at least a good whack of the books, you’ve read. (Hm is ‘a good whack of’ a proper collective noun?) As a writer you might imagine I’ve read a ton of books (and would that be Avoirdupois or Troy) but I don’t own many of them. (Actually, if I’ve read a ton of books I probably own about 7 or 8 hundredweight of what I’ve read – I still have quite a lot of books).

The thing I’m finding is that there are books on my shelves that I know I’ve read and yet I can’t remember a damn thing about them. I even remember enjoying them at the time. Now, the question is, does this reflect badly on me or the author? I suppose a bit of both. The thing is, I got through my fair share of classics in my youth. Now I’m not saying that no one is writing great literature anymore but only time will tell I suppose if its effects will be lasting. The sad fact is that a lot of the time we don’t realise we are in the presence of greatness.

And, of course, what makes anything great? I find myself giving all the books on my list four or five stars and it’s not because I’m particularly magnanimous in my praise, it is just that I have read a lot of good books and the reason for that is I’m a bad reader. I have to be getting something out of a book to commit valuable time to it. And time is valuable. So I take my time – sometimes an extraordinary amount of time – before I fork out hard cash on any book which is why if I’ve loved a certain book by one author I won’t rush out and buy everything they’ve ever done, Samuel Beckett and Richard Brautigan excepted. (I know – go figure). When I was younger I made a point, for a few years anyway, of only reading books by either Nobel prize-winners, or, when it came to sci fi, Hugo and Nebula award winners. And that wasn’t a bad thing, if a little narrow-minded of me.

I remember a scripture from my childhood and I suppose a lot of other people’s: But beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body (Ecclesiastes 12:12). It is so true and yet I still love being around books, I love the smell of them (even the old fusty ones) and I love owning them even books I’ll probably never get round to reading which I suppose is like buying expensive wine you can’t afford to drink. I just wish they weren’t so damn expensive these days and I’d bought more when they were only 35p each (the price I paid for my first book).

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